The most obvious instance occurs with a character

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person’s who do not “look right”- deemed uncanny or monstrous. The most obvious instance occurs with a character like Frankenstein’s monster, whose grotesque and and pieced-together physical features immediately signal an ugly equals bad and monstrous connection within any viewer, including its creator. While there was no correlation between his physical appearance and becoming a monster, the creature turns monstrous because of the way he is cast off and treated by society because of the constructed classification of his unfortunate physical features. While not as inhumanly grotesque, Mr. Hyde is judged by many other as a bad man solely from his appearance and animalistic and unpleasant, and Stevenson uses physiognomy as a means to further express his theme of differentiating the good versus evil of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. However, as one traces the progression of the Gothic genre, this physiognomy effect becomes less blatant and applied more widely and specifically than to just the classically hideous monster or an “ugly” looking person. The Turn of the Screw’s character of Peter Quint with his red hair, was to have physiognomic evil features as socially constructed at the time, and hence used by Bronte to signal a potential badness of character. In Cold Blood as well had its two killers described as tattooed, deformed beings, who although still able to function in society, were judged by physical features and ultimately became evil characters. Perhaps the most disturbing and realistic occurrence of this physical discrimination that has been employed in this genre is that of race and blackness. In Wuthering Heights, there is subtle allusion to judgments made on Heathcliff based on his dark skin. Right in the beginning, the narrator judges Heathcliff’s look for not fitting the décor of his house, and young Heathcliff is essentially treated as a slave because of his “othered” look. These superficial judgments send Heathcliff on a course toward vengeful monstrosity.
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As illustrated by the classic Gothic stories aforementioned, many of the main gothic devices arise from issues stemming from constructions of identity. Most notably the struggle forms not inherently from an individual constructing his or her identity, but the psychological tug-of-war that results when an individual wishes to conform to society, and must shape identity within the relational structure of others. This social structure again includes necessity for repression, label categorization, and judgments of physicality to make its decisions on prescribing acceptable identities to its individuals. However, for all individuals whose identities are unnaturally subjected to these rules, problems will naturally arise. Again, these give rise to the return of the repressed, and the negative effects of being labeled as uncanny or monstrous- which as shown, become cause and effect type self-fulfilling prophesies rather than actual natural correlation. The Gothic genre, and offshoots such as the Horror genre, use these tropes of the genre to convey their horrific and eerie effects. As concluded, analysis into the underlying causes of these tropes and their resulting effects show that identity serves as a foremost thematic root of the manifestations of horror within Gothic literature, as well as life.
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Christopher Reinemann
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